Thursday, December 10, 2009

Focaccia Bread!

By far the most popular bread in this house is our homemade focaccia bread. We eat it as often as I allow the indulgence. I could make a dinner out of it. I don't need anything else but a glass of wine, it's that stinking good. We've used it as a base for deep dish style pizza too and the kids don't stop talking about it.

I had this focaccia in a post about making tortellini soup and as promised I'm going to show you how to make this crispy, flavorful bread.

My friend and neighbor, Karen, wanted to learn to make focaccia bread to accompany the soups she makes for her business's customers. Recently one morning we made a large batch in her sunny kitchen.

I learned to make this focaccia by watching baker John Baricelli on television. It's more of a method than a recipe but easy once you know the steps.

This bread was made with fresh thyme and onions but focaccia is very versitile. You could used dried herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley) if you want.

This recipe will make one cookie sheet of bread.
Start by generously coating the pan with good olive oil. At least a quarter of a cup.

The pan should be generously coated. Don't be afraid of the oil.

Proof one package of yeast (two teaspoons) in six tablespoons of water and one and a half tablespoons of sugar. It's important to know that the yeast is active so let it sit for ten minutes or so until it starts to foam.

In a large mixing bowl put three and a half cups of flour, two teaspoons of salt, two teaspoons fresh rosemary, one tablespoon fresh thyme and 1/4 cup of olive oil.

Pour in the proofed yeast mixture and an additional scant one cup of warm water.

Stir the dough with a wooden spoon. It should be wet, sticky and raggedy looking.

Turn the dough out onto a surface that is lightly dusted with flour.
Using a bench scraper to handle the sticky dough, fold and turn the dough a five or six times.

Lay the dough in the oiled pan. Flip it so both sides of the dough are coated with oil.
Begin spreading the dough out towards the edges of the pan.
The dough will not spread more than half of the way or so without springing back.

Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap and let it rest and proof (rise).

Every fifteen minutes or so, spread the dough a little farther towards the edges of the pan.

After about forty-five minutes the dough should be to the edges of the pan.

Let it continue to proof another 15-20 minutes.

When the dough has doubled in thickness, dimple it with your fingers and add rings of sliced onions if desired, pressing them into the dough, or sprinkle with more fresh or dried herbs.

Drizzle more oil over the top.
Yes, I said more oil. Just do it. You'll be happy you did!

Give the dough a light sprinkling of salt.
Karen used flaky kosher salt and it was lovely.

Bake the dough at 425 degrees for 20 minutes until golden.

Come to me, darling.

Immediately remove the dough from the pan to a rack to retain its crispy goodness.

Oh my.

Tear the bread into sections like John B. does, or cut it into triangles.
Then try, just try, to eat only one piece!

Focaccia Bread

Extra virgin olive oil
1 package yeast
6 Tablespoons water
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt plus more for sprinkling
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
1 scant cup of warm water

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